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Explainer: Why are politicians getting a 2% pay rise?

Many are angry that TDs and senators will see a pay rise next week.

TDs and Senators are set to receive a 2% pay increase. Why?
TDs and Senators are set to receive a 2% pay increase. Why?
Image: Sasko Lazarov/RollingNews.ie

ATTENTION HAS TURNED to a 2% pay increase for the vast majority of Oireachtas members, set to be introduced next week. 

Questions have already been raised about why politicians should enjoy a salary increase amid a pandemic that has caused widespread unemployment across the country. 

The increase, which has been waived by senior members of the government, comes as part of a wider – and long-standing – public sector pay deal. 

Over 343,000 public sector workers will be in line for the pay increase, flagged as part of the Public Service Stability Agreement agreed back in June 2017. This means that it’s not TDs alone who’ll be receiving a pay rise. 

While the agreement long pre-dates the pandemic, recent months had seen questions raised about whether the government – which has spent billions to tackle the crisis and keep the economy afloat – could afford the increase.

The original agreement, at a cost of €877 million, saw a number of increases for public sector workers between 2018 and 2020. 

Some of the salary increases, none above 2%, were only for workers paid less than €32,000. 

This latest increase, which will take effect from 1 October, will see all salaries rise by 2% in the public sector. 

This increase includes council staff and TDs, as well as nurses and gardaí. Estimates suggest that the rise will cost the State €264 million in 2021. As a comparison, over €3 billion has been spent already on the pandemic unemployment payment (PUP). 

Current pay

Currently, TDs earn €96,189 a year, while senators earn €68,111. Politicians’ salaries cost the tax-payer €19.4 million in 2018. 

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne, Minister for Education Norma Foley said that the increase – and whether to waive it – is a “matter for TDs themselves”.

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Stressing that the rise had been “independently analysed”, she said that it was part of the wider increase across all public services. 

However, questions have inevitably been raised about why politicians  – in the middle of a pandemic – should receive a pay rise. It comes alongside a reduction in some of the payments made under the PUP and a decision to appoint 10 new advisors for junior ministers. 

On the same programme, Sinn Féin’s finance spokesperson Pearse Doherty said that the move was “tone deaf”. 

His party has waived the increase for its TDs and senators. 

In July, Taoiseach Micheál Martin said that the Cabinet would take a 10% pay cut. However, Martin and his ministers will still earn more than their predecessors following new salary levels following a pay restoration agreement. 

Pressure is likely to grow throughout today and this week for TDs to waive the increase in their salaries. 

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